WITI PERSONAL GROWTH
How to Make Better Choices
Do you want cereal or eggs for breakfast? Do you want to walk, or ride your bike, or take a bus, or drive your car to work? You make literally thousands of choices each day, many without much conscious thought. Clearly you have the ability to make choices - you know how to do it and you have experience doing it. But what happens when you face bigger choices with larger consequences – such as deciding to change your job or profession, or start a business, or deciding whether or not to submit your resume to a job opening? Do you find yourself stuck or vacillating? And when you remain undecided do you notice how the options and opportunities you could have chosen disappear or pass you by? Would you like to be able to make decisions more easily and make better choices? Here are three things you can do.
1. Create More Than Two Options
When a situation occurs and you need to decide what to do, the first step you can take to insure you make better choices is to identify more than two options. If you see only one option then choice does not exist – there is nothing to choose between and you feel trapped. If you see only two options it’s easy to fall into the trap of vacillating between them, seeing first the benefits or disadvantages of one choice over the other, and then reversing your thinking – again and again. And this oscillation will erode your self esteem as you think, “What is wrong with me that I can’t decide between two simple things?” Having only two choices makes the decision seem deceptively simple. Having two choices creates the impression that one choice must be good and one bad and so the pressure to make the ‘right’ decision surfaces and can cloud your decision-making ability.
If you can identify three or more options you start to feel better. Real choice comes into play. You feel freer to examine the implications of each choice and to tease out subtle distinctions that differentiate them. The perception that there is ‘one right choice’ fades, and your ‘decision’ morphs into a ‘selection’ from among many alternatives that are available to you.
2. Make Them Real
To make a good choice you must have a clear understanding of what the outcome of your choice will provide you. To choose between multiple options you need to be able to experience them physiologically – to make them real in your mind’s eye - to envision them in a way that engages your five senses. And to do so it is helpful if you have a good imagination. But here is the catch. You have to focus your imagination on the positive and attractive potential outcomes of your choices, not the negative ones. All too often those with really good creative imaginations use them to envision in horrifying detail all of the possible negative outcomes that could result from a given decision. For example, when contemplating a decision to give a speech they may imagine themselves actually standing in front of the audience, feeling nauseous, sweating, and shaking, and looking out into the audience and seeing everyone laughing. The more they generate fearful images the more their fear-reaction kicks in and keeps them stuck. It never occurs to them to use this same imaginative ability to do the following:
Use their fertile imagination to create an elaborate vision of the potential positive outcomes of their decision – to see it, smell it, feel it and make it real so that it becomes compelling. For example, they might imagine the feelings of pride and satisfaction they feel as they deliver a dynamic and articulate presentation, the warmth of acceptance and applause from the audience, etc.
3. Proactively Choose
Sadly, many of the most important decisions, especially those with high emotional impact, are never actually ‘made’ by the person considering them – they are simply derailed by procrastination and end up ‘decided’ by ‘default.’
Choosing is an active process – not passive. You may love the idea of free choice or personal freedom but you give it up when you don’t decide. Choice is when you think on purpose. Choice is when YOU decide. Situations and other people are always in flux and the alignment of events that creates options for you in one unique moment in time can easily shift in the next and those options and opportunities will be lost forever.
The Bottom Line
You can make better choices if when faced with a situation requiring a decision or action you do the following: generate multiple potential options for your response, use your imagination to immerse yourself in the potential positive outcomes that each option offers, and then proactively decide. If you can do these things you start thinking instead of reacting and take back control over your decisions and your future.